Category Archives: Force Modernization

Parlous State of VTA

Oleg Falichev wrote recently for Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer on the parlous state of Russia’s VTA — Military-Transport Aviation. The one-time Krasnaya zvezda correspondent laid out a less-than-convincing “infomercial” supporting renewed production of the Soviet-era An-124 heavy transport by Ilyushin.

An Endangered Species the An-124

Endangered species?

That said, Falichev made points worthy of attention. Still some of his numbers are irreconcilable. But the thrust of his report is significant and grim for the VTA.

The current condition of the VTA inventory isn’t up to its missions, according to Falichev. Those missions include transferring troops between theaters, delivering large-diameter equipment, medical evacuation, other logistical support, and, most importantly, carrying the VDV to the battlefield.

VTA workhorses — the An-124 and Il-76 — are in dire need of replacement and/or modernization. The issue, Falichev says, is what needs to be done to keep them flying.

The majority of Russian transport aircraft were made in Soviet times or the 1990s, and the service life of most is expiring. Falichev reports that Moscow has only four An-124, 46 Il-76, and one An-22 heavy transports in a combat ready state. He says Russia has 26 An-124, but only four in a serviceable, flyable condition.

Other sources report a nominal (not necessarily operational) inventory of nine An-124, 89 Il-76, and five An-22 aircraft.

In NVO recently, Aleksandr Khramchikhin concluded VTA has about 15 An-124 and An-22 and about 90 Il-76 transports along with some 160 medium transports (mainly An-12 and An-26).

DIA’s recent Russian Military Power pub said virtually nothing about VTA as a power projection resource (probably wise), but it wrote that Russia has “122 heavy transports” which pushes the outer limit of reality.

The USAF has 45 C-5, 222 C-17, and probably 350 C-130 transports in various configurations.

Khramchikhin puts this in context:

“The enormous size of American transport aviation is explained by the global missions standing before the U.S. Armed Forces, especially since all these missions have to be carried out beyond North America. We have no such scope although, as events in Syria show, it fully well may appear sooner or later. But the scale of our own country in conjunction with the configuration of Russian territory (strongly stretched in a latitudinal direction in distinction from the almost square U.S.) and the difficulty of accessing most of it requires a very large VTA. We can have 6-7 thousand km between point A and point B inside our own country and point B can be in such a place where literally ‘it’s only possible to go by plane.’ So 250 transport planes (of which the larger half are medium and light) is little for us since the majority of them (all An-12 and An-22, a signficant part of Il-76 and An-26) have gotten very outdated. In addition, our VTA is very strangely deployed on the country’s territory — in gigantic Siberia and the Far East, which are almost entirely inaccessible regions, there is only the 257th Transport Regiment with 12 aged An-12 and 5 An-26 medium planes located in the very extreme south-east ‘corner’ of this super-region! The largest VDV in the world also require a much larger quantity of more modern transport aircraft.”

But back to Falichev . . . .

Falichev concludes that even optimal production of the Il-76MD-90A (Il-476) won’t replace the existing Il-76 inventory in the new future. There is, he claims, a replacement for the An-124 contained in GPV 2018-2027. Nevertheless, there remains a “real risk of a sharp decline” in the numbers of Russian VTA aircraft. And in combat readiness also. Syria and other contingencies, he continues, demonstrate the is high demand for the capabilities of a transport like the An-124.

News photo purportedly showing offload of S-300P TEL from An-124 in Syria

News photo purportedly showing offload of S-300P TEL from An-124 in Syria

With due respect to Messrs. Falichev and Khramchikhin, Moscow might live without new VTA aircraft. It’s not able to acquire everything to modernize its armed forces. Trade-offs are inevitable. VTA might be one. Russia’s rail network provides good internal lines-of-communication. Russia is more likely to fight regional conflicts along its periphery than far-flung wars. That its military could operate without new VTA is a debatable proposition, but one that should be, and likely is being, debated in Moscow.

Supposedly the PAK TA will be able to transport Russia’s new generation armor — Armata, Kurganets-25, etc. It might be ready for series production in 2027 in an optimistic scenario. In a realistic one, there are lots of obstacles.

Former Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar, now Deputy PM and arms tsar, Yuriy Borisov has not only rained on renewed An-124 production, but also said R&D for PAK TA wont even begin until 2025. Its PD-35 engines won’t be ready before 2027. He has said modernized An-124s could fly until almost 2040.

So Falichev and others are left largely in the same place — modernizing the existing inventory of transports.

Here are some of his more squirrelly figures. He says the VTA maintains the fitness of the inventory at 56 percent — more than 131 of 200 aircraft are serviceable, 41 percent of Il-76s, 36 percent of An-124s, 17 percent of An-22s. None of these numbers track with the foregoing. Suffice it to say that readiness, serviceability, and OOB figures are notoriously spongy. It’s hard to say who’s counting and what they’re counting.

Falichev writes that Russian transports are simply being overworked. In 2016, the Il-76 force reached its annual flight hours target of about 24,000 in June and went on to get 150 percent of the goal for the year. This tracks with lots of past reports indicating that VTA pilots have no problem getting their flight hours.

VTA isn’t getting nearly enough maintenance money in the state defense order. In 2016, it paid for only 9 percent of the necessary parts and components. Less than that was actually received, according to Falichev. That amount was reduced in 2017 when there were plans to refurbish only nine transports.

The production and repair of D-30KP-2 engines for Il-76s is insufficient. Falichev says the annual requirement is 120 of them. He claims there’s a plan to acquire more than 500 of them by 2024.

Falichev claims Russia’s An-124s get only two percent of the financing needed to service them. Their D-18T engines are a problem since they’re now a foreign product (Motor Sich in Ukraine). And AO UZGA in Yekaterinburg hasn’t mastered their repair. Perhaps because they aren’t getting paid to do it? Obviously an import-substitute is needed here.

So he sums it up:

“As we see, the problems are serious enough that they can’t be solved with a wave of the hand. It’s no wonder in Rus they say: the peasant doesn’t cross himself until it thunders.”

In other words, Moscow may have put off action on VTA until it’s too late.

To remedy VTA’s woes, Falichev calls for GOZ financing sufficient to maintain transport aircraft, their engines, and components at an acceptable level. He advocates funding to repair 12 D-18T, 8 NK-12MA (for An-22), and 112 D-30KP-2 engines. He says the quality of Il-76 maintenance at Novgorod’s AO 123 ARZ needs to improve. His entire “to-do” list is longer.

Falichev concludes:

“These are only the most essential measures. The state needs a long-term, systematic aviation development program, not just for military but also civilian aviation. Without it, Russia will stop calling itself an aviation power and will continue flying in ‘Boeings’ and ‘Airbuses.'”

And this is really the crux. Moscow doesn’t seem to have a priority on fixing VTA, but it won’t give up on it either because that would imply giving up on its larger aviation industry to some degree.

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Upgunning Artillery

The Uragan-M1 MRL can mount 12 300-mm or 15 220-mm tubes

The Uragan-1M MRL with twelve 300-mm tubes

A year ago General-Lieutenant Mikhail Matveyevskiy asserted that Russian Army firepower will increase 50 to 100 percent by 2021. This will come, he said, by forming new missile and artillery units and reequipping existing ones.

In December, Izvestiya talked to MOD sources who provided more specifics on what’s happening in the artillery.

The Ground Troops are reinforcing artillery regiments and brigades with new 9K512 Uragan-1M heavy multiple rocket launchers, and are returning very large-caliber guns and mortars to the order-of-battle. These systems provide greater firepower and extend the reach of Russia’s artillery.

According to Izvestiya, in 2013-2017, “seven self-propelled artillery regiments were formed in five motorized rifle and two tank divisions.” They are likely the brigades that were converted back to divisions in the last couple years. As maneuver brigades, they typically had two SP howitzer battalions and one MRL battalion (122-mm BM-21 Grad MRLs). Adding an Uragan-1M battalion is a significant upgrade.

The paper noted an independent artillery regiment was also established as part of the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps in Russian-occupied Crimea.

The MOD started adding heavy Uragan-1M MRLs to the reestablished maneuver divisions in late 2016. Izvestiya reported that the 275th SP Artillery Regiment (4th Kantemir Tank Division) got a “full battalion set” of eight Uragan-1M launchers. The earlier 9K57 Uragan MRL also typically deployed to artillery brigades in eight-launcher battalions. 

The Uragan-1M can fire cluster, volumetric, guided, and enhanced range munitions and use 122-mm, 220-mm, or 300-mm rockets. It has a 70-km range. Its rate of fire is faster than older MRLs because it can reload complete racks of loaded tubes instead of reloading individual tubes mounted on the launch vehicle. It may fire two salvos before maneuvering to avoid counterbattery fire.

According to the paper’s sources, the Uragan-1M’s automated command and control system and fire control computer allows the MRL to destroy targets “in real time without crew input.”

Izvestiya reported that the 45th Svir Order of Bogdan Khmelnitskiy High Power Artillery Brigade was reestablished at Tambov in 2017. It operates two battalions (eight each) of 203-mm SP 2S7 Pion guns and one battalion (eight) of 240-mm SP 2S4 Tyulpan mortars. These large-caliber systems can destroy reinforced targets and field fortifications 122-mm and 152-mm weapons cannot. Pion has a range of 47 km. Tyulpan can reach 20 km and also fires Smelchak, a Soviet-era laser-designated munition.

The MOD told the paper that artillery brigades in the Central (385th) and Eastern MDs (165th and 305th) already have Pion and Tyulpan systems.

Mil.ru has reported that the 165th Artillery Brigade has the 2S7M Malka gun.

The article notes Orlan-10 UAVs are being widely deployed with Russian artillery brigades and regiments since last year. Procurement of UAVs certainly seems to be a priority.

Izvestiya concludes, while considered less effective than precision weapons in recent years, Russia’s artillery troops and new systems are getting more attention as they work toward a one-shot kill capability.

Military Acceptance Day

According to Krasnaya zvezda, April 19 was “military acceptance day” for the first quarter of 2018. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu presided over a NTsUO session while arms tsar Yuriy Borisov and others reported on military procurement over the past three months.

Shoygu in the NTsUO

Shoygu himself opened the proceedings stating that, so far in 2018, the military has acquired:

  • 23 BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles;
  • One Elbrus logistics ship (project 23120);
  • Two roadstead rescue boats (project 23040);
  • 10 aircraft; and
  • Seven (Mi-8AMTSh) helicopters (another seven are due in 2018).
This roadstead rescue boat serves in the Caspian Flotilla

This roadstead rescue boat serves in the Caspian Flotilla

Deputy Defense Minister Borisov described new or repaired equipment the Ground Troops and VDV have received including:

  • 25 new and 96 repaired armored vehicles (23 BTR-D armored vehicles of 30 to be overhauled this year);
  • 125 vehicles of other types;
  • 50 comms systems;
  • 16 SAMs;
  • 4,000 parachute systems; and
  • 155 UAVs;

NTsUO video screens

From Miass, the managing director of Ural said a shipment of 30 Motovoz-1 trucks is almost ready to go to the armed forces.

Borisov said the Aerospace Forces have gotten:

  • 20 new and four repaired aircraft;
  • 30 new helicopters with 3 undergoing repair;
  • Three radars; and
  • 4,000 air-dropped munitions.

The director of the Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant said two Su-34 fighter-bombers were delivered in February. Ten more are due in 2018. The Irkutsk factory indicated four Su-30SM have passed “technical acceptance.” Similarly, ten more will be delivered before the end of this year.

The Space Troops successfully orbited three satellites this quarter, according to Borisov.

The Navy got Delta IV-class SSBN Tula back after a two-year repair. It also received three ships and auxiliaries, two helos, and 46 new Kalibr long-range cruise missiles.

Kazan-based UAV developer Eniks reported that two new T-28 Eleron-3 UAVs have gone to the customer, and the rest of the order of 30 are ready to be delivered.

St. Petersburg’s STTs commented on shipments of Orlan-10s for the armed forces. It indicated 152 were delivered so far in 2018 — 16 Torn-8PMK, 80 Orlan-10, 40 Leyer-3, and 16 others.

The session also covered testing of specialized Arctic vehicles for the military, preparations for this year’s Victory Day parade, and military construction activities.

(More) Gerasimov on Future War

Let’s round out what Russian General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said on March 24. Though the conference was held at the Military Academy of the General Staff, Gerasimov was actually addressing a plenary of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences.

The Academy is technically non-governmental, but more accurately quasi-official. It counts many senior Russian military officers, scientists, and researchers (and even more retired ones) in its membership. It’s an august unofficial think tank for the MOD.

One can be sure of a couple of things.

First, Gerasimov’s remarks would have differed had he spoken to a strictly MOD audience. But the General Staff likely shares most of its thinking about modern war with the Academy of Military Sciences. Second, it’s unlikely KZ covered every aspect of what Gerasimov said. Some portions probably weren’t reported. One wonders what the entire, unfiltered speech sounded like. 

At any rate, Gerasimov had this to say about Russia’s involvement in Syria:

“Before Russia entered the conflict on the government’s side, this country actually conducted an undeclared war for the right to exist for more than four years. There’s no clear answer when this struggle transformed from internal disorder into military conflict. No state openly declared war on Syria, but all illegal armed formations are armed, financed and controlled from abroad. With time the list of participants in the military conflicts there is broadening. Together with regular troops, the internal protest potential of the population is active, as are terrorist and extremist formations.”

“Today independent military specialists see the military conflict in Syria as the prototype of a ‘new generation war.’ Its main feature is the fact that Syria’s state-enemies conduct covert, undetectable actions against it, without being dragged into direct military conflict.”

Then KZ paraphrases Gerasimov:

“The changing character of armed struggle is a continuous process, and all previous military conflicts substantially differ from one another. The content of military actions itself is changing. Their spatial scale is growing, their tension and dynamism are increasing. The time parameters for preparing and conducting operations is being reduced.”

“A transition from sequential and concentrated actions to continuous and distributed ones, conducted simultaneously in all spheres of confrontation, and also in distant theaters of military operations is occurring.”

The MOD daily quotes him again:

“The requirements for troop mobility are becoming more severe. The transition to systematic destruction of the enemy on the basis of integrating the forces of all strike and fire means into a single system is occurring. The role of electronic warfare, information-technical and information-psychological actions is increasing. The growth in the share of precision weapons supports pinpoint and selective target destruction, including critically important ones, in real time.”

On the growing size of theaters of military operations:

“They encompass areas with installations of military and economic potential located at a significant distance from the zone of immediate military actions. The scale of employing remotely-controlled robotic strike systems is growing. In a complicated, rapidly-changing situation, the capability to control troops and forces effectively is acquiring special importance.”

This is when Gerasimov said every conflict has its own features and talked about targeting the enemy’s economy, C3, reconnaissance, and navigation systems.

He said:

“The organization development and training of the RF Armed Forces is being realized accounting for these tendencies in the changing character of armed struggle.”

KZ paraphrases the General Staff Chief’s words about balanced development of the armed services and the provision of modern weapons. Reserves and the VDV — with their new tank, EW, and UAV capabilities — will reinforce troop groupings in strategic directions. Here Gerasimov also mentioned the extension of air and fleet deployment areas — including to the Arctic. Then Gerasimov described groupings of cruise missile launchers established in all strategic directions, reducing the time to fire them, and developing unmanned reconnaissance-strike systems.

According to KZ’s account, Gerasimov referenced President Vladimir Putin’s March 1 description of Russia’s future strategic weapons. He said new missiles and other weapons — including hypersonic ones and those “without foreign analogues” — will have increased capability to overcome U.S. missile defenses. He ended with his statement that new precision systems — including hypersonic missiles — will allow for non-nuclear strategic deterrence.

It’s quite a vision of the Russian military and what it needs to do in the future. It sounds like it describes the situation in a military already at war. But Gerasimov and his troops have a way to go to achieve all of this.

One senses in the General Staff Chief’s comments a reaction to Russia’s recent participation in old-school kinetic conflicts (albeit with the use of modern ground-, sea-, and air-launched missiles) in Ukraine and Syria. It could be a call to develop Russia’s command and control warfare capabilities.

Finally, it’s possible to hear the lingering echo of Soviet Marshal Nikolay Ogarkov’s words from 34 years ago:

“. . . rapid changes in the development of conventional means of destruction and the emergence in the developed countries of automated reconnaissance-strike systems, long-range precision terminally-guided combat systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, and qualitatively new electronic control systems make many types of weapons global and make it possible to increase sharply (by at least an order of magnitude) the destructive potential of conventional weapons, bringing them closer, so to speak, to weapons of mass destruction in terms of effectiveness. The sharply increased range of conventional weapons makes it possible immediately to extend active combat operations not just to border regions, but to the whole country’s territory, which was not possible in past wars. This qualitative leap in the development of conventional means of destruction will inevitably entail a change in the nature of the preparation and conduct of operations, which will in turn predetermine the possibility of conducting military operations using conventional systems in qualitatively new, incomparably more destructive forms than before.”

Gerasimov on Future War

Army General Gerasimov addressing the conference

Army General Gerasimov addressing the conference

Russia’s General Staff Chief and First Deputy Defense Minister Army General Valeriy Gerasimov delivered the keynote before a “military-operational conference” at the Military Academy of the General Staff yesterday.

His address rehashed the Kremlin’s view of the world (and of the U.S.) but it also picked up where President Vladimir Putin left off in his March 1 speech on Russia’s new “invincible” weapons.

But rather than Russia’s putative future strategic weapons, Gerasimov focuses on deterrence, command and control, and conventional operations. He describes “inter-service groupings” and cruise missiles deployed in strategic directions. He stresses destruction of the enemy’s command and control and improvements in Russia’s. Finally, he discusses integrating reconnaissance to speed mission planning for precision strikes.

In one form or another, Gerasimov’s remarks will almost certainly be the lead story in tomorrow’s Krasnaya zvezda.

Some excerpts published by Russia media outlets follow.

From TASS:

“Today the U.S. commitment to maintaining global dominance and a monocentric world order through every possible means, including military, is critical for the development of the military and political environment in the world. This conflicts with the views of many countries, including Russia, which consider global leadership inappropriate and advocate a just world order.”

“As a result a transnational struggle has sharply accelerated. It is still based on non-military measures — political, economic and information. Moreover, apart from mentioned areas it has gradually spread over all activities of the modern society – diplomatic, scientific, cultural, and has virtually swept across the board.”

“The reality shows that economic, political, diplomatic and other non-military measures taken by the west against dissenting countries go together with the threat of military force employment or its direct employment.”

“The U.S. and its allies often employ military force in circumvention of generally accepted norms of international law or on the base of distorted renderings of those norms for its own benefit, under the slogan of protecting democracy.”

From Interfaks-AVN:

“It goes without saying that each military conflict has its own distinctive features. Broad employment of precision and other types of new weapons, including robotic ones, will be fundamental characteristics of future conflicts. The enemy’s economy and state command and control system will be the priority targets. Besides traditional spheres of armed struggle, the information sphere and space will be actively involved.”

“Countering communications, reconnaissance and navigation systems will play a special role.”

“These are just the contours of the most probable war of the future. Together with them, the spectrum of possible conflicts is extremely broad and the Armed Forces have to be ready for any of them.”

“The possibility that armed conflicts will arise simultaneously in various strategic directions predetermined the creation of inter-service groupings of troops and forces in the military districts which guarantee the effective conduct of combat actions by military personnel in peacetime as well as in wartime.”

TV Zvezda quotes Gerasimov as saying the experience of recent “local wars” and operations in Syria has “given a new impulse” to the development of Russia’s weapons systems. He also said:

“In each strategic direction, groupings of long-range air- and sea-based cruise missile delivery platforms capable of deterrence in strategically important areas have been established.”

Again Interfaks-AVN:

“In the future, the increase in possibilities of precision weapons, including hypersonic ones, will allow for transferring the fundamental part of strategic deterrence from the nuclear to the non-nuclear sphere.

More from Interfaks-AVN:

“Improvements in the structure of command and control organs, the establishment of special information support sub-units, and also the introduction of computer systems allowed for reducing the time to prepare to use a long-range precision weapon in combat by 1.5 times.”

Interfaks-AVN again:

“Reconnaissance-strike and reconnaissance-fire systems are being developed which aim to support the effectiveness and continuity of fire suppression on the enemy. The integration of reconnaissance-information and information-command systems with the weapons systems of services and troop branches is being implemented.”

“Work to develop an inter-service automated reconnaissance-system is being conducted. It should result in reducing the time cycle for completing fire missions — from reconnaissance to target destruction — by 2-2.5 times. At the same time, the accuracy of targeting will increase by 1.5-2 times, and the potential for delivering precision weapons will expand.”

And back to Interfaks-AVN:

“The broadening scale of using unmanned aviation systems (UAS) and the difficulty of defeating them with existing air defense systems requires creation of an effective system of counteraction. Future systems to counter the employment of UAS, including those based on new physical principles, are being developed and have started to enter the force.”

“Priority attention is being given to developing the Armed Forces’ command and control systems. Development of modern means of combat control and communications integrated in a single information space is being realized. The system of modeling the Armed Forces has received new development.”

“The level of automation of the processes of situational information collection and analysis and combat action planning will grow because of the introduction of the unified automated system of troop and weapons command and control at the tactical level [YeSU TZ], the development of which was finished last year. This year supplies of it in sets to motorized rifle and tank formations and units are beginning.”

And finally TASS with more on UAS and EW:

“Currently the development of future multipurpose systems is being completed. Their introduction into the inventory will allow for fulfilling not only reconnaissance, but also strike missions where the employment of other means is difficult or less effective.”

“The troops are being outfitted with systems of electronic warfare against aerospace means, navigation systems and digital radio communications. Means of counteracting precision weapons are being perfected.”

Engine Trouble

The Russian media report more trouble for project 11711 LST Ivan Gren (BDK 135). During state trials, the new tank landing ship has been unable to run astern (reverse engines and go backwards). [Did Yantar shipyard really not discover this issue during its factory underway testing?] This comes atop Gren’s earlier degaussing problem which kept the Russian Navy from accepting the ship before the end of 2017.

Ivan Gren (BDK 135)

Ivan Gren (BDK 135)

Yantar announced on February 20 that it might launch unit two, Petr Morgunov, in the second half of May. It’s also sticking to its promise, however unlikely, to deliver the completed LST to the Russian Navy before the end of 2018.

Yantar indicated the second unit’s port and starboard 16ChN26/26 (aka 10D49) diesel engines will be swapped to see if this remedies the astern running problems Gren experienced. But the work on Morgunov has to be done by late April to keep to its launch schedule.

If the swap works, the same [actually, perhaps even more] difficult process will be performed on Gren. But it will apparently be accepted into the fleet in May before its engine trouble is fixed.

Flotprom.ru reports the engine swap will alter the turning of ship’s propellers and eliminate the astern running problem. Any naval engineers out there are invited to explain how this could work to the rest of us! The shipbuilding industry site indicates trading engine places is complex and can consume several months.

The media also report that Gren now lacks good seakeeping qualities due to the many design changes made during its protracted construction. They even claim that the Russian Navy will forego further ships in this class, basically a modification of the Soviet-era project 1171 Alligator-class LST. How Moscow would fill the gaps in its small and rapidly aging landing ship force is anyone’s guess. 

Gren and Morgunov are 5,000 tons displacement and 120 meters long, and can cruise at 18 knots. They have a 100-man crew, and can carry 13 tanks or 36 armored vehicles and 300 troops. They are outfitted with AK-630 30-mm gun systems and a landing deck for a Ka-27 or Ka-29 helo.

The Annual Report

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin addressed an expanded session of the MOD Collegium at the new RVSN training facility in Balashikha on December 22.

Putin

According to the Kremlin.ru transcript, Putin gave attention to Syria, where he said the Russian Federation Armed Forces displayed “qualitatively developed modern capabilities” to deliver the “decisive contribution” to the defeat of international terrorists.

Putin said Russian arms and equipment will be nearly 60 percent modern by the end of 2017, and 70 percent by 2021. Again that word modern. Russia, he declared, will be a world leader in developing a “new generation” army.

The Russian leader took pains to accuse the U.S. of violating the 1987 INF Treaty.

He indicated Moscow’s priorities in the next GPV will be precision weapons,  unmanned strike systems, individual soldier systems, reconnaissance, communications, and EW systems. Not very different from what he said last year.

Preserving strategic nuclear parity is a perennial priority. Putin said the Russian triad would be 79 percent modern at end of 2017. By 2021, Russian ground-based ICBMs are supposed to be 90 percent modern.

Russia’s president also called for strengthening the SSO and VDV.

All in all, there’s less of interest in Putin’s report than Shoygu’s.

Shoygu

Shoygu had much to say about Syria as a training ground for the Russian Army and Russian pilots. Some figures were new. Others we’ve heard before.

He said 48,000 Russian troops fought in Syria over the last two years. The Aerospace Forces (VKS) flew 34,000 combat missions. The Navy delivered 100 strikes, presumably Kalibr LACMs. Long-Range Aviation flew 66 strike missions. Shoygu reported that 60,318 enemy fighters were killed, including 819 leaders and 2,840 Russian Federation expatriates.

Then the head of the MOD got to what the Russian military received in 2017:

  • Three mobile RVSN regiments were fully reequipped with RS-24 Yars ICBMs;
  • LRA got three modernized bombers;
  • The army got 2,055 new or modernized systems to reequip three formations [divisions or brigades] and 11 units [regiments];
  • VKS received 191 aircraft and 143 air and missile defense systems;
  • Ten ships and boats, 13 support ships, and four land-based Bal (SSC-6 / Sennight) and Bastion (SSC-5 / Stooge) ASCM systems probable “battalion sets” entered the Navy. Naval aviation got 15 aircraft;
  • VDV acquired 184 armored vehicles and SP guns;
  • The armed forces got 59 UAV systems with 199 UAVs;
  • The Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System (YeSU TZ) now meets the MOD’s requirements and was used successfully in combat training.

Compare this list with 2016. And for reference, with year-enders for 2015 and 2014.

Shoygu expounded on the list of weapons and equipment acquired since 2012. It was originally outlined in less detail by Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov in a November 1 interview with VPK. The list included:

  • 80 ICBMs;
  • 102 SLBMs;
  • Three Borey-class SSBNs;
  • 55 satellites;
  • 3,237 tanks and combat vehicles;
  • More than 1,000 planes and helicopters;
  • 150 ships and vessels;
  • Six proyekt 636.3 Improved Kilo diesel-electric submarines;
  • 13 Bal (SSC-5 / Stooge) and Bastion (SSC-6 / Sennight) launchers probable “battalion sets.”

Shoygu said this procurement enabled the MOD to outfit:

  • 12 RVSN regiments with RS-24 Yars ICBMs;
  • 10 missile brigades with Iskander-M SRBMs;
  • 12 regiments with MiG-31BM, Su-35S, Su-30SM, and Su-34 aircraft;
  • Three army aviation brigades and six regiments with Ka-52 and Mi-28 helicopters;
  • 16 air defense regiments with S-400 SAMs;
  • 19 battalions with Pantsir-S gun-missile systems;
  • 13 battalions with four Bal and Bastion ASCMs apiece;
  • 35 formations with Ratnik-2 individual soldier systems;
  • Six new Voronezh radar systems and refurbished Daryal, Dnepr, and Volga systems.

The Defense Minister said the Russian Armed Forces now have 59.5 percent modern arms and equipment. Specific service percentages are:

  • RVSN — 79 percent;
  • Ground Troops — 45 percent;
  • Aerospace Forces — 73 percent;
  • Navy — 53 percent.

Much of what’s claimed seems like it happened. Some seems disputable. “More than 1,000 planes and helicopters” seems a stretch. CAST counted 370 fighters and trainers since 2012. Do helos and transports account for the other 630? Other claims are useful starting points but require research.